Friday, March 29, 2013


"Destroyed furniture and belongings are seen in a market in Sitkwin March 29, 2013." (Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)
Muslims Vanish as Buddhist Attacks Approach Myanmar's Biggest City
By Jason Szep
Reuters dispatch, March 29, 2013
"The Muslims of Sit Kwin were always a small group who numbered no more than 100 of the village's 2,000 people. But as sectarian violence led by Buddhist mobs spreads across central Myanmar, they and many other Muslims are disappearing. Their homes, shops and mosques destroyed, some end up in refugee camps or hide in the homes of friends or relatives. Dozens have been killed. 'We don't know where they are,' says Aung Ko Myint, 24, a taxi driver in Sit Kwin, a farming village where on Friday Buddhists ransacked a store owned by the town's last remaining Muslim. 'He escaped this morning just before the mob got here.' Since 42 people were killed in violence that erupted in Meikhtila town on March 20, unrest led by hardline Buddhists has spread to at least 10 other towns and villages in central Myanmar, with the latest incidents only about a two-hour drive from the commercial capital, Yangon. The crowds are fired up by anti-Muslim rhetoric spread over the Internet and by word of mouth from monks preaching a movement known as '969'. The three numbers refer to various attributes of the Buddha, his teachings and the monkhood. But it has come to represent a radical form of anti-Islamic nationalism which urges Buddhists to boycott Muslim-run shops and services. Myanmar is predominantly Buddhist but about 5 percent of its 60 million people are Muslims. There are large Muslim communities in Yangon, Mandalay and towns across Myanmar's heartland where the religions have co-existed for generations. But as violence spreads from village to village, the unleashing of ethnic hatred, suppressed during 49 years of military rule that ended in March 2011, is challenging the reformist government of one of Asia's most ethnically diverse countries.

India / Gendercide

"Discrimination: Expectant mothers carrying girls are less likely to give birth in hospital, take iron supplements and receive tetanus immunisation,"
Indian Women Are Victims of Discrimination before They Are Even Born as Baby Boys Get Better Medical Treatment before Birth
By Olivia Williams
The Daily Mail, March 28, 2013
"A survey of more than 30,000 Indians by Michigan State University and University of California has revealed that preferential treatment for men starts before they are even born.
Women expecting boys were more likely to get prenatal medical appointments, take iron supplements, and receive vital tetanus shots. They were also more likely to deliver a son in a health-care facility, as opposed to at home. It is even still common practice to have an abortion based on the baby's sex in India, though it is illegal. When baby girls are carried to full term, they still face medical discrimination with serious long-term health consequences. Assistant professor Leah Lakdawala from MSU who carried out the research said: 'This type of discrimination, while not as severe as sex-selective abortion, is very important for children's well-being'. Missing out on the Tetanus vaccinations is a particular worry as it is the main cause of newborn deaths in India. Babies whose mothers had not received a tetanus vaccination were more likely to be born underweight or die shortly after birth. The researchers compared the survey to other patriarchal nations such as China, Bangladesh and Pakistan and saw similar evidence of medical discrimination. This could mean that girls are already at a serious disadvantage when they are born. 'We know that children born at higher birth weights go to school for longer periods and have higher wages as adults, so the future implications here are serious,' Lakdawala said.
The study was published in the Journal of Human Resources."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. Thanks to Jo Jones for bringing this source to my attention.]

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Congo / Rwanda / International Criminal Court

"Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda (R) looks on beside a security guard during his first appearance before judges at the International Criminal Court in the Hague March 26, 2013." (Reuters/Peter Dejong/Pool)
Congo Warlord Denies Guilt in First Appearance at Hague Court
By Thomas Escritt
Reuters dispatch on Yahoo! News, March 26, 2013
"Bosco Ntaganda, a Congolese warlord known as 'the Terminator' who evaded arrest on war crimes charges for seven years, denied guilt when he appeared for the first time at the International Criminal Court on Tuesday. Ntaganda unexpectedly gave himself up to diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Rwanda last week, walking in off the street and demanding to be handed over the ICC. Within days he was put on a plane to The Hague. He is accused of murder, rape and other crimes over a 15-year-period of fighting in Rwandan-backed rebellions in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. His appearance almost seven years after the court first issued a warrant for his arrest is a much-needed success for the ICC following the collapse of several cases. Dressed in an ill-fitting dark blue suit, blue shirt, and stripy tie -- attire most likely provided by the court -- a stooped and bowed Ntaganda appeared ill at ease in the courtroom on Tuesday, leaning forward and looking down as the hearing began. He confirmed his name, gave his age as 39, and told the court he was not guilty of the charges, but a judge interrupted and said this was not the occasion for discussing his guilt.


"Proceedings against accused war criminals in Bangladesh have caused civil unrest and violence." (AFP/Getty Images)
Bangladesh Minorities Bear Brunt of Violence
By Saif Khalid, March 24, 2013
"A few weeks ago, after Friday prayers, a mob of more than 3,000 people attacked the house of Sadhanchandra Mandal, a Hindu, in southwestern Bangladesh. 'They attacked our houses shouting slogans such as ... "We are the Taliban, this Bengal will be Afghan", and looted everything," said 60-year-old Mandal, who said the attackers used petrol and weapons in the assault against his home. 'I don't understand how we will survive here -- anytime I will be killed, as they are threatening me.' Mandal said the police and a paramilitary battalion did nothing to stop the crowd from attacking houses in the remote villages of the Satkhira district where he lives. 'My wife and daughter-in-law with her two kids saved their lives by swimming across a pond,' Mandal told Al Jazeera. 'We are still not safe.' The South Asian nation has been caught up in turmoil ever since two war crimes tribunals sentenced several public figures for atrocities committed during the country's liberation war from Pakistan in 1971, and it is members of the minority community like Mandal who have borne the brunt of the violence. Among those sentenced are leaders of the country's largest Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, whose supporters are blamed for much of the violence. Supporters of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have also hit the streets, as some of their own leaders are also facing war crimes charges. With tensions running high, minorities have come to be seen as soft targets to vent frustration.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Myanmar-Burma / Rohingya

"Riot policemen form up near a fire during riots in Meikhtila March 22, 2013." (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)
Myanmar Riots Stoke Fears of Widening Sectarian Violence
By Andrew R.C. Marshall
Reuters dispatch, March 22, 2013
"Myanmar declared martial law in four central townships on Friday after unrest between Buddhists and Muslims stoked fears that last year's sectarian bloodshed was spreading into the country's heartland in a test of Asia's newest democracy. Whole neighborhoods were still smoldering on Friday and agitated Buddhist crowds roamed the streets after three days of turbulence, said Reuters reporters in the city 540 km (336 miles) north of the commercial capital Yangon. State television said President Thein Sein had declared a state of emergency and imposed martial law in the four districts, placing the military, rather than local police, in charge of security. Authorities imposed an overnight curfew on Wednesday. Twenty people, including a Buddhist monk, have been killed and dozens wounded since Wednesday, said Win Htein, a lawmaker for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party. Two camps now held more than 2,000 people displaced by the fighting, he added. The unleashing of ethnic hatred, suppressed during 49 years of military rule that ended in March 2011, is challenging the reformist government of one of Asia's most ethnically diverse countries. Jailed dissidents have been released, a free election held and censorship lifted in Myanmar's historic democratic transition. But the government has faced mounting criticism over its failure to stop the bloodshed between Buddhists and Muslims. 'I am really sad over what happened here because this is not just happening to one person. It's affecting all of us,' said Maung Maung, a Buddhist official in Meikhtila. Hundreds of Muslims have fled their homes to shelter at a sports stadium, local officials said.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Croatia / Serbia

"Police battle rioting fans when violence erupts at a football match between fans of Red Star Belgrade and Dynamo Zagreb Yugoslavia in 1990." (Rex Features)
Croatia vs Serbia The Rematch: Memories of Riots, Battles and War Crimes
By Shaun Walker
The Independent, March 21, 2013
"It was in the Maksimir Stadium that the tremors that presaged the Yugoslav wars first erupted, as a mass riot broke out between fans of Red Star Belgrade and Dinamo Zagreb in May 1990. With fists flying and knives drawn, dozens were injured in a brawl between the two sets of fans, many of whom would soon be facing each other on real battlefields. It is in the same stadium tomorrow night that Serbia and Croatia will face each other for the first time on the football pitch as independent nations in a World Cup qualifier that is overlaid with memories of riots, battles and war crimes. Football-mad at the best of times, there is much more at stake than the chance to edge closer to a place at next year’s World Cup. Serbian fans have been banned from the stadium in an attempt to avert violence, just like their Croatian counterparts will be when the two teams meet in the return leg in Belgrade in September. In Vukovar, a town on the border with Serbia, the tension is palpable. It saw heavy fighting under seven years of Serb occupation before it was handed back to Croatia in 1998. The population is still mixed, with Serbs making up about one third of the inhabitants, but the two ethnic groups live segregated lives. Sparks have flown in recent months as the Serbian population fights to have the town's street signs written bilingually, and Serbs say they will not dare to leave their homes during tonight's game for fear of being attacked by the local Croat population.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Guatemala / Genocide Tribunals

"The former dictator, Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, is set to stand trial for the massacres during his rule in 1982-83." (Victor J. Blue/The New York Times)
In Effort to Try Dictator, Guatemala Shows New Judicial Might
By Elisabeth Malkin
The New York Times, March 16, 2013
"Tiburcio Utuy thought he saw fear cross the former dictator's face. A judge had just ruled that the military dictator, Gen. Efraín Ríos Montt, now 86, should stand trial for genocide and crimes against humanity committed under his rule in the 1980s, a decision Mr. Utuy and other Maya survivors of Guatemala's 34-year civil war had gathered in the courtroom to hear in person. 'He won't suffer the same way we suffered -- but he will be scared,' Mr. Utuy said in his mountaintop village a few days after the ruling in late January. 'And maybe he will spend a little bit of time in prison.' Mr. Utuy, 71, is set to be a witness in a trial that few believed would ever take place. But Guatemala's justice system has begun a transformation. In a show of political will, prosecutors are taking long-dormant human rights cases to court, armed with evidence that victims and their advocates have painstakingly compiled over more than a decade -- as much to bear witness as to bring judgment. 'It's sending the most important message of the rule of law -- that nobody is above the law,' said Claudia Paz y Paz, the attorney general, who many here say has been one of the most important forces behind the change. In the 17 months that Mr. Ríos Montt controlled Guatemala, before he was overthrown in a coup in August 1983, his soldiers intensified a scorched-earth campaign across the Maya highlands begun by his predecessor in 1981 to flush out leftist guerrillas. The military marched into villages, torturing, raping and killing those who could not run away. They burned down houses and crops, and butchered livestock. A United Nations truth commission concluded in 1999 that attacks on specific indigenous groups amounted to genocide. 'The aim of the perpetrators was to kill the largest number of group members possible,' the commission's report said. Investigators concluded that the war took more than 200,000 lives over more than three decades before the 1996 peace accords.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Iraq / Kurdistan / Anfal Campaign

"The consequences of the attack are still being felt." (Getty Images)
Iraqi Kurds Mark 25 Years since Halabja Gas Attack
BBC Online, March 16, 2013
"Kurds in northern Iraq have been commemorating the 25th anniversary of the chemical weapons attack on the town of Halabja by Saddam Hussein's forces. Clutching photos of dead relatives, mourners observed a minute's silence at the Martyr's Monument in Halabja. An estimated 5,000 people, mostly women and children, were killed when Iraqi jets dropped poison gas on the town. Many others died later of cancer and other illnesses, and the legacy of chemical contamination persists. The attack on Halabja on 16 March 1988 was the most notorious act of chemical warfare in modern times, the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says. Iraqi government forces attacked the town near the Iranian border after it was taken over by Kurdish rebels towards the end of the Iran-Iraq war. The exact number killed is not known, but ran into the thousands as townspeople choked on a mixture of mustard gas and nerve agents. Researchers believe the contamination passed not only into the soil and water, but also into the gene pool, with abnormal numbers of children since being born with genetic malformations. In a speech marking the anniversary, the regional prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, called for 16 March to be recognised as an international day against chemical weapons, the AFP news agency reports. The atrocity at Halabja scarred the collective memory of Iraqi Kurds and hardened their determination to run their own affairs autonomously within a loose Iraqi federation, our correspondent says. The two men directly responsible -- Saddam Hussein and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid -- known as 'Chemical Ali' -- were hanged in 2006 and 2010. The attack on Halabja was part of a wider campaign known as 'Anfal' in which tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed by their own government."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cambodia / Genocide Tribunals

"Ieng Sary, who served as foreign minister of the Khmer Rouge regime, has died."
The Slow Death of Justice: Demise of Key Suspect Leaves Khmer Rouge War Crimes Tribunal with Only One Conviction
By Andrew Buncombe and Kounila Keo
The Independent, March 15, 2013
"When the ornately decorated court complex on the outskirts of Phnom Penh opened its doors in the summer of 2007 it was seen as a milestone in Cambodia's tortured journey towards justice. Survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime, which killed up to 1.7 million of its own citizens, flocked to see the first defendant, a slight, wiry prison commander called Kaing Guek Eav, brought before the judges. 'I want to confront him, to ask who gave him the orders to kill the Cambodian people, said Chum Mey, one of just a handful of survivors from the Tuol Sleng jail, from which Kaing Guek Eav -- also known as Comrade Duch -- dispatched up to 14,000 people to the killing fields. Yet six years on, the tribunal is confronting little short of a crisis. In the latest of a series of setbacks, one of three elderly defendants standing trial for war crimes has died in hospital. Some of the same people who celebrated when the tribunal began now say it has become a sham and should be halted. Survivors of the Maoist-inspired regime said the death yesterday of Ieng Sary, 87, who served as the regime's foreign minister, highlighted a complaint they had repeatedly made -- namely that the slow pace of the trial is undermining justice. 'I'm very disappointed that Ieng Sary escaped justice, escaped the trial,' said Ou Virak, whose father was killed by the regime and who now heads the Cambodian Human Rights Centre. 'This is exactly what we have been saying. There is no time to waste.'

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cambodia / Genocide Tribunals

"Ieng Sary denied charges including war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity." (Associated Press)
Former Khmer Rouge Leader Ieng Sary Dies
The Telegraph, March 14, 2013
"Former Khmer Rouge leader Ieng Sary, who was on trial for genocide and war crimes, has died in hospital on Thursday at the age of 87. The oldest of three former leaders on trial, he was foreign minister in Pol Pot’s murderous regime in Cambodia, and was known as Brother Number Three. The death of the former student radical, who emerged as one of the few public faces of the Khmer Rouge during its brutal rule in the late 1970s, has heightened fears the remaining defendants may not survive to see justice at the court. Ieng Sary, along with Brother Number Two Nuon Chea, 86, and one-time head of state Khieu Samphan, 81, denied charges including war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Both Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan are frail with high blood pressure, and have suffered strokes. Born to a poor ethnic Khmer family in south Vietnam, Ieng Sary, the former foreign minister repeatedly denied knowledge of the mass executions that came to define the Khmer Rouge regime, and claimed he had no powers of arrest. His wife Ieng Thirith, the regime's former social affairs minister, was also supposed to be in the dock but she was deemed unfit for trial last year after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Led by Brother Number One Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge wiped out nearly a quarter of Cambodia's population through starvation, overwork or execution in a bid to create an agrarian utopia during their rule. Ieng Sary's death was no surprise given his age and ailing health, said Ou Virak, who heads the Cambodian Center for Human Rights. But 'given the fact that the other two defendants are also in their 80s, it should act as a wake-up call to all concerned -- the Cambodian government, the UN, the international donors and the tribunal itself -- that these cases need to be expedited urgently so that justice can be served.'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kenya / International Criminal Court

"Uhuru Kenyatta (centre left) and Francis Muthaura (centre right) were on the same side during the disputed 2007 election." (BBC Online)
ICC Drops Case against Kenya Violence Suspect Due to Stand Trial alongside Uhuru Kenyatta
By Daniel Howden
The Independent, March 11, 2013
"The International Criminal Court has dropped charges against one of the four alleged masterminds of the violence that followed Kenya’s elections in 2007. The move comes after two of the other indicted men, Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto, won last week's elections. Francis Muthaura, the former head of the civil service, had been due to stand trial in July along with Mr. Kenyatta but the case against him collapsed after a key witness recanted their testimony. 'Several people who may have provided important evidence regarding Mr Muthaura's actions, have died,' the ICC's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement. 'While others are too afraid to testify for the prosecution.' The court, which has faced a series of setbacks since launching proceedings against six people it claims were 'most responsible' for the deaths of at least 1,300 people and the displacement of 600,000 more, now faces a battle for its own credibility against an elected president. Mr. Kenyatta, who hired the same political spin doctors who worked for the British chancellor George Osborne when he was in opposition, used the ICC indictment in his favour during the election campaign. With Kenya still haunted by the violence of its previous polls he presented his 'Uhuruto' ticket as a guarantee of peace and accused the West of siding with his rival Raila Odinga.

Syria / Gendercide

"Bodies revealed by the Queiq river's receding waters." (Thomas Rassloff/EPA)
Syria: The Story Behind One of the Most Shocking Images of the War
By Martin Chulov
The Guardian, March 11, 2013
"It is already one of the defining images of the Syrian civil war: a line of bodies at neatly spaced intervals lying on a river bed in the heart of Syria’s second city Aleppo. All 110 victims have been shot in the head, their hands bound with plastic ties behind their back. Their brutal execution only became apparent when the winter high waters of the Queiq river, which courses through the no man’s land between the opposition-held east of the city and the regime-held west, subsided in January. It's a picture that raises so many questions: who were these men? How did they die? Why? What does their story tell us about the wretched disintegration of Syria? A Guardian investigation has established a grisly narrative behind the worst -- and most visible -- massacre to have taken place here. All the men were from neighbourhoods in the eastern rebel-held part of Aleppo. Most were men of working age. Many disappeared at regime checkpoints. They may not be the last to be found. Locals have since dropped a grate from a bridge, directly over an eddy in the river. Corpses were still arriving 10 days after the original discovery on January 29, washed downstream by currents flushed by winter rains. Just after dawn on 29 January, a car pulled up outside a school being used as a rebel base in the Aleppo suburb of Bustan al-Qasr with news of the massacre. Since then a painstaking task to identify the victims and establish how they died has been inching forwards. The victims, many without names, were mostly buried within three days -- 48 hours longer than social custom dictates, to allow for their families to claim them. Ever since, relatives have been arriving to identify the dead from photographs taken by the rescuers.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Syria / Gendercide

"Residents attempt to identify bodies found along a river, at a school used as a field hospital in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr January 29, 2013. At least 65 people, apparently shot in the head, were found dead with their hands bound in a district of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo." (Zain Karam/Reuters)
Twenty Bodies Turn Up in Aleppo's "River of Martyrs"
Reuters dispatch, March 10, 2013
"Syrian opposition campaigners said at least 20 bodies of young men shot by security forces were found on Sunday in a small waterway running through the contested city of Aleppo. It was the largest number of bodies lifted in a single day from what became known as 'the river of martyrs', after 65 bodies turned up in late January. An average of several bodies a day have been appearing in the river since, several activists in the northern city, which is near Turkey, told Reuters. Most bodies found so far floated down the River Queiq to the opposition-held Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood after being dumped in an upstream district in central Aleppo under the control of President Bashar al-Assad's forces where several security compounds are located, opposition activists in Aleppo said. There was no official comment from the government. State media said the bodies found in January were those of people abducted and killed by the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front. Syrian authorities have banned most independent media, making it difficult to verify reports from inside Syria. Video footage taken on Sunday, which could not be immediately verified, showed 16 bodies of young men dressed in casual clothes lying on the banks of the small stream. Some had their hands bound, and many appeared to have been shot in the head or had deep wounds to the neck.

Kenya / International Criminal Court

"An artist known as solo7 paints a peace message on the tarmac in the Kibera slum in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi March 9, 2013." (Karel Prinsloo/Reuters)
Peace Holds in Heartlands of Kenya's Election Losers
By Hezron Ochiel and Drazen Jorgic
Reuters dispatch, March 10, 2013
"Strongholds of defeated presidential candidate Raila Odinga were peaceful on Sunday, apparently reflecting a desire by Kenyans to avoid a repeat of the bloodshed that followed the last election five years ago. Odinga has refused to concede the election to rival Uhuru Kenyatta, but said he would challenge the result in the courts and urged his supporters to refrain from the violence that convulsed Kenya when he lost the disputed vote of 2007. A smooth handover of power this time around is seen as critical to restoring Kenya's reputation as a stable democracy and safe investment destination -- an image that was shattered by the mayhem that followed the last election. In Kisumu, the biggest city in Odinga's tribal heartland, business owners on Sunday made plans for a full resumption of trading after many had run down their stocks in the run-up to the vote because of fears of unrest and looting. 'Look, I'm preparing a budget to order more stock tomorrow. There is calm and no more fear of losing property,' hardware store owner Linus Omog told Reuters. Nestled on the shores of Lake Victoria in the west of Kenya, Kisumu was a flashpoint in the post-election violence five years ago that left more than 1,200 people dead, hundreds of thousands uprooted from their homes and properties destroyed. From Lake Victoria's lush banks to Kenya's Indian Ocean coastline, Kenyans from across the political divide said lessons had been learned in a country where political support tends to derive from ethnic identity rather than ideology.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Guatemala / Genocide Tribunals

Guatemalan Appeals Court Delays Start of Genocide Trial for Former Dictator Rios Montt
Associated Press dispatch in The Washington Post, March 9, 2013
"A Guatemalan appeals court has suspended the trial date for retired Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, a former dictator accused of genocide. Court officials said Saturday that the temporary injunction delays the proceedings scheduled to begin March 19. It would be the first genocide case against a former head of state in Latin America. The injunction was requested by military lawyers challenging Judge Miguel Angel Galvez's decision to exclude expert witnesses in Rios Montt's defense. Rios Montt is accused of overseeing the slaughter of at least 1,771 indigenous people between March 23, 1982, and Aug. 8, 1983, while serving as de facto president during the country's civil war. Defense attorney Moses Galindo calls the judge's ruling a 'gross violation of constitutional rights.'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. Uh-oh.]

Kenya / International Criminal Court

"Supporters of presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta touch his picture on an election poster as they celebrate after learning of his victory in Kenya's national elections." (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images)
A Man Indicted for Crimes Against Humanity Wins Kenya's Presidential Election
By Daniel Politi, March 9, 2013
"Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president and a man indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, was officially declared the winner of the presidential election Saturday with the slimmest of margins necessary to avoid a run-off. His victory with 50.07 percent of the vote was certified Saturday, reports the Associated Press, merely 0.07 percentage points over the threshold needed to avoid the runoff. The announcement likely doesn’t mean the end of tension and worries about violence in Kenya since the other top contender, Raila Odinga, had already said he would not concede after a vote that some say was marred by fraud, points out the New York Times. Kenyatta's victory also puts the West in a delicate quandary considering he was indicted by the ICC in the Hague for allegedly funding militias to conduct attacks in the 2007 election. His running mate also faces charges in the Hague, reports CNN. Reuters points out that when the 51-year-old takes office, Kenya will become the second African country after Sudan to have a sitting president who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court. Although the United States and others had warned a Kenyatta victory would complicate relations with Kenya, the country is widely seen as a vital ally in fighting against Islamism in the region."
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch.]

United States / Genocides of Indigenous Peoples / Anti-Semitism

"The 'Wizard of Oz' prequel opening Friday in the US is based on the ideas of L. Frank Baum, whose descendants would eventually apologize for his hateful racial views." (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Lions and Tigers and Genocide? Oh Yes
By Matt Lebovic
The Times of Israel, March 8, 2013
"Ten years before a tornado whirled Dorothy to a land of multicultural harmony, 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' creator L. Frank Baum penned an editorial for the South Dakota newspaper he owned. 'The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent,' he wrote, 'and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.' It was 1890, and Baum was publisher and editor of the Saturday Pioneer in Aberdeen, SD. He ran the paper for only a year, but it happened to be one of the most explosive in America's conquest of the western frontier. The region's expanding population of white settlers had been in conflict with Native Americans since the Dakota War of 1862. Armed skirmishes continued for decades, culminating in what became a day of infamy for US-Native American relations at Wounded Knee Creek on December 29, 1890. During the battle, the US Seventh Cavalry division captured a large group of Sioux Native Americans, most of them unarmed. Although the Sioux surrendered and handed over their weapons, soldiers killed up to 300 unarmed men, women and children. Both before and after the massacre, Baum ran editorials calling for the elimination of South Dakota's Native Americans. Just a week before the massacre, Baum urged readers to put an end to the Native American question with the headline, 'Why Not Annihilation?' He framed the destruction of Native American tribes as a natural step to consolidate the frontier. 'Wipe these untamed and untamable creatures off the face of the Earth,' Baum wrote just days after Wounded Knee. 'In this lies future safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands.' For his calls to get rid of Native Americans, Baum has been charged with incitement to genocide by some historians.

Bosnia / Rape as a Crime against Humanity

"Muslim Bosniak woman Nusreta Sivac is seen during the interview with The Associated Press in Sanski Most, 260 kms west of Sarajevo on Tuesday, March 5, 2013. Sivac, a former judge, was one of thousands of women who were raped during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, as part of a systematic Bosnian Serb rape campaign." (Amel Emric/Associated Press)
Bosnian Woman Helped Make Rape a War Crime
By Aida Cerkez
Associated Press dispatch on Yahoo! News, March 8, 2013
"There were days when she prayed for a bullet to end her suffering. When she thought she was dying of a heart attack, she whispered 'Thank you God.' A young judge, Nusreta Sivac was one of 37 women raped by guards at a concentration camp in Bosnia. They never discussed the nightly traumas -- their pained glances were enough to communicate their suffering. She also witnessed murder and torture by Bosnian Serb guards -- and was forced to clean blood from walls and floors of the interrogation room. She told herself to memorize the names and faces of the tormentors so that one day she might bring them to justice. Today, it's partly thanks to Sivac's efforts to gather testimony from women across Bosnia that rape has been categorized as a war crime under international law. Thirty people have been convicted at the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague and another 30 cases are ongoing. She personally helped put the man who raped her repeatedly during her two months in captivity behind bars. 'Most of the strength I took from the idea that one day this evil would be over,' she told The Associated Press this week ahead of International Women's Day on Friday. The UN Special Representative on sexual violence in conflict said Sivac and other victims are helping to make sure wartime rapists pay for their crimes. 'The courage these women have shown coming forward and sharing their stories demonstrates the need to break the silence and stigma surrounding sexual violence in conflict,' said Zainab Hawa Bangura. 'These survivors are helping to end impunity by making sure perpetrators are brought to justice.'

Friday, March 08, 2013

India / Gendercide / Genocide Prevention

A Fight to Save Baby Girls in India
By Kamala Thiagarajan
The New York Times, March 7, 2013
"Back in the 1980s, this rural patch of the southern state of Tamil Nadu had the dubious distinction of the worst reputation for 'gendercide,' or murder of unwanted baby girls, in India. There were no official statistics, of course. Just as no one keeps a tally of how middle-class Indians today use scans to determine a baby's sex and whether to abort a female fetus, the child deaths in the Usilampatti region, home to about 85,000 people, were whispered about, not totaled. Often, births were unregistered, conducted by a village midwife who would then also kill unwanted girls. This was done quite openly -- and prompted Valli Annamalai, head of the Mother and Child Welfare Project, an initiative of the Tamil Nadu state branch of the nongovernmental Indian Council for Child Welfare, to act. She started by trying to grasp the size of the problem. Council statistics suggest that, in 1990, there were as many as 200 unaccounted-for infant deaths, all of girls, in this region. 'Girls were considered a burden and a liability in these parts,' she recalled during a recent visit to a council center in the village of Pannaipatti. Raising economic prospects 'was the only way to stop the mindless violence and discrimination.' One way to improve women's lot, she said, was to care for infants and thus allow mothers to return to their work -- mostly toil in the fields of this spottily fertile region, where women have been second-class for centuries.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Burma-Myanmar / Rohingya

Ignoring Genocide
By Ramzy Baroud, March 7, 2013
"One fails to understand the unperturbed attitude with which regional and international leaders and organizations are treating the unrelenting onslaught against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, formally known as Burma. Numbers speak of atrocities where every violent act is prelude to greater violence and ethnic cleansing. Yet, western governments' normalization with the Myanmar regime continues unabated, regional leaders are as gutless as ever and even human rights organizations seem compelled by habitual urges to issue statements lacking meaningful, decisive and coordinated calls for action. Meanwhile the 'boat people' remain on their own. On February 26, fishermen discovered a rickety wooden boat floating randomly at sea, nearly 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the coast of Indonesia's northern province of Aceh. The Associated Press and other media reported there were 121 people on board including children who were extremely weak, dehydrated and nearly starved. They were Rohingya refugees who preferred to take their chances at sea rather than stay in Myanmar. To understand the decision of a parent to risk his child's life in a tumultuous sea would require understanding the greater risks awaiting them at home. Reporting for Voice of America from Jakarta, Kate Lamb cited a moderate estimate of the outcome of communal violence in the Arakan state, which left hundreds of Rohingya Muslims dead, thousands of homes burnt and nearly 115,000 displaced. The number is likely to be higher at all fronts.

Iraq / El Salvador / United States

"US trained 'death squad' victims in San Salvador, 1981." (Olivier Rebbot/Contact Press/Wikileaks)
From El Salvador to Iraq: Washington's Man behind Brutal Police Squads
By Mona Mahmood, Maggie O'Kane, Chavala Madlena, Teresa Smith, Ben Ferguson, Patrick Farrelly, Guy Grandjean, Josh Strauss, Roisin Glynn, Irene Baqué, Marcus Morgan, Jake Zervudachi and Joshua Boswell
The Guardian, March 6, 2013
"An exclusive golf course backs onto a spacious two-storey house. A coiled green garden hose lies on the lawn. The grey-slatted wooden shutters are closed. And, like the other deserted luxury houses in this gated community near Bryan, Texas, nothing moves. Retired Colonel Jim Steele, whose military decorations include the Silver Star, the Defence Distinguished Service Medal, four Legions of Merit, three Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart, is not at home. Nor is he at his office headquarters in Geneva, where he is listed as the chief executive officer of Buchanan Renewables, an energy company. Similar efforts to track him down at his company's office in Monrovia are futile. Messages are left. He doesn't call back. For over a year the Guardian has been trying to contact Steele, 68, to ask him about his role during the Iraq war as US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's personal envoy to Iraq's Special Police Commandos: a fearsome paramilitary force that ran a secret network of detention centres across the country -- where those suspected of rebelling against the US-led invasion were tortured for information. On the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion the allegations of American links to the units that eventually accelerated Iraq's descent into civil war cast the US occupation in a new and even more controversial light. The investigation was sparked over a year ago by millions of classified US military documents dumped onto the internet and their mysterious references to US soldiers ordered to ignore torture. Private Bradley Manning, 25, is facing a 20-year sentence, accused of leaking military secrets. Steele's contribution was pivotal. He was the covert US figure behind the intelligence gathering of the new commando units. The aim: to halt a nascent Sunni insurgency in its tracks by extracting information from detainees. It was a role made for Steele. The veteran had made his name in El Salvador almost 20 years earlier as head of a US group of special forces advisers who were training and funding the Salvadoran military to fight the FNLM guerrilla insurgency. These government units developed a fearsome international reputation for their death squad activities.

Death-squad victims in Iraq (unverified).

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Argentina / Operation Condor / National Tribunals

"Relatives of victims during South American military regimes hear trial ruling at Argentine embassy, Montevideo, March 31, 2011." (Miguel Rojo/AFP/Getty Images)
Trial over Terrifying "Operation Condor" Under Way
By Mariano Castillo, March 5, 2013
"A trial over one of Latin America's darkest moments is under way in Argentina, where 25 defendants are accused of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in a 1970s campaign of repression and violence. Operation Condor was an organized campaign by the continent's right-wing governments to suppress and crush political opposition. On Tuesday, 25 former officials tied to the operation appeared in court for the first day of what officials say could be a trial of more than two years. The clandestine nature of Operation Condor means that its full extent may never be known, but researchers estimate that 50,000 were killed, 30,000 were 'disappeared' and presumed killed, and 400,000 were jailed, according to The Center for Justice and Accountability. Chile under dictator Augusto Pinochet was central to the operation, which also included participation from Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay, the center says. Tuesday's trial is the first time for such a large number of defendants in the case to be tried together.

Mexico / Forced Disappearance

"Posters bearing the photos of disappeared people lie piled up on a table at the office of a group hunting for disappeared people in the Mexican state of Coahuila." (Tim Johnson/MCT)
Mexican Families Struggle to Bring Attention to Those Who've Disappeared
By Tim Johnson
McClatchy Newspapers, March 5, 2013
"Rogelio Elizondo's son went to buy a used car in Nuevo Laredo. He never came back. He and a companion simply vanished on May 8, 2011. Because they were carrying the equivalent of $5,000 for the purchase, suspicion turned to foul play. Alarmed, Elizondo fretted over what to do. Friends offered advice. 'People said to us, "Don't report this." They said, "Let us look into this,"' Elizondo recalled. After 10 days, growing more desperate, Elizondo went to the Coahuila state police, only to find utter lack of interest. 'They said it wasn't their jurisdiction. It happened in another state,' Elizondo said. Indeed, Nuevo Laredo is in neighboring Tamaulipas, not Coahuila. 'They said, "We aren't going to investigate. There's nothing we are going to do."' In much of Mexico, Elizondo's tragedy would remain the anguish of a solitary family in a country where the problem of people who've disappeared is worse than anyplace else in the Western Hemisphere. Mexico's government acknowledged in February that it has a list of 26,121 people who'd vanished without a trace during the government of President Felipe Calderon, who left office Dec. 1. But in Coahuila, a slightly more positive story is unfolding. The number of 'disappeared' is still high here -- 1,600 or so, the governor has acknowledged -- but Elizondo wasn't alone. He joined scores of other families looking into the cases of 298 missing persons in the state.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Russia / Stalinism

"In this Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 file photo a woman holds a portrait of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin during a communist rally marking the Defenders of the Fatherland Day in Moscow, Russia." (Mikhail Metzel/AP Photo)
Joseph Stalin More Popular In Russia Now Than At End Of Soviet Union, Finds Carnegie Survey
By Vladimir Isachenkov
The Huffington Post, March 1, 2013
"An opinion survey commissioned by the Carnegie Endowment says that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin has remained widely admired in Russia and other ex-Soviet nations, even though millions of people died under his brutally repressive rule. The Carnegie report, released Friday, was based on the first-ever comparative opinion polls in Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. It found that support for Stalin in Russia has actually increased since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The report has concluded that public attitudes to the dictator have improved during Russian President Vladimir Putin's 13-year rule as the Kremlin has found Stalin's image useful in its efforts to tighten control. The tyrant led the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. Communists and other hardliners credit him with leading the country to victory in World War II, and making it a nuclear superpower, while others condemn the brutal purges that killed millions of people. One of the report's authors, Lev Gudkov, a Russian sociologist whose polling agency conducted the survey, noted that in 1989, the peak of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's efforts to liberalize the country and expose Stalinist crimes, only 12 percent of Russians polled described Stalin as one of the most prominent historical figures. In the Carnegie poll last year, 42 percent of Russian respondents named Stalin as the most influential historical figure.